The Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime

Thursday, 07 Jul 2022
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RSO jointly hosts roundtable discussion on 'Strengthening response to smuggling of migrants in Viet Nam'

On 1 July 2022 in Hanoi, Viet Nam, the Regional Support Office of the Bali Process (RSO), partnered with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the National Assembly’s Judicial Affairs Committee, to jointly host a roundtable discussion on Viet Nam’s response to smuggling of migrants. The roundtable was attended by Members of Parliament, leaders of the Judicial Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, representatives of the Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Public Security and the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs among others, including journalists from National Assembly TV.

Madam Mai Thi Phuong Hoa, Deputy Chairperson of the National Assembly’s Judicial Affairs Committee, spoke of the acute challenges citizens of Viet Nam face at the hands of organised criminal smugglers. She emphasized Viet Nam’s strong commitment to strengthening response to smuggling of migrants, including through accession to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, supplementing the Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol).

Dr Rebecca Miller, Regional Coordinator for Human Trafficking and Migrant Smuggling, UNODC, explained that smuggling of migrants is a high profit crime, with criminals yielding up to $7 billion each year by taking advantage of peoples’ need or desire of people to flee poverty, conflict, natural disasters, violence or persecution in search of safety and opportunity elsewhere. Mr David Scott, RSO Co-Manager (Australia) pointed to the urgency of coordinating response along smuggling routes to close gaps of impunity for criminal smugglers. He recalled the 2016 Ministerial Conference of the Bali Process on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and related Transnational Crime, at which Bali Process Members were encouraged to effectively criminalise smuggling of migrants to better confront the transnational criminal enterprises involved.

Dr Marika McAdam, International Law and Policy Advisor, RSO, outlined the international legal framework on smuggling of migrants, and the key obligations contained therein. She also highlighted the publication on Understanding the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol (available in Vietnamese among other languages) as a key tool to support efforts.

Ms LE Thi Vân Anh, Deputy Director General, Criminal and Administrative Legislation Department, Ministry of Justice, set out the domestic legislative framework applicable to smuggling of migrants. In addition to pointing out opportunities to confront smuggling of migrants presented by Viet Nam’s 2015 Penal Code, she also offered a series of recommendations to address identified gaps in line with international law. Ms Le stressed the benefits that Viet Nam stands to gain from acceding to the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol, both to strengthen its sovereignty, and to combat the organized crime that profits from violating it.

Mr Ðào Bá Thông, Deputy Director General, Immigration Department, Ministry of Public Security, explained how smugglers profit from taking advantage of the demand of Vietnamese people for work, and the labour shortages that create demand for migrant labour. In this respect, he noted the complex connection between migrant smuggling and human trafficking, and the challenges associated with protecting smuggled people from exploitation. Mr Thông pointed to a range of practical challenges in confronting the dynamic modus operandi used by migrant smugglers, and expressed the view that accession to the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol would strengthen Viet Nam’s capacity to partner with the international community to increase efforts against criminal smugglers and related crimes, while at the same time creating conditions that are favourable for safe and legal movement and work, to reduce demand for smuggling services.

The vibrant and nuanced discussion that followed technical presentations showcased Viet Nam’s strong political will to strengthen response to criminal smugglers, and to protect those who have been smuggled. The RSO looks forward to ongoing engagement with the government of Viet Nam as it continues its journey towards joining 150 States parties to the Smuggling of Migrants Protocol and implementing practical measures to confront this transnational crime.